It’s grind time: the competition that you’ve been practicing so rigorously for is right around the corner, and your practices are becoming extra long and physically demanding. Going full out is now an hourly occurrence. You’re almost ready to board that bus, and mental preparation is building in your mind for the moment when you finally take the mat. However, you also have that tiny little voice in the back of your head that wants you to get away from it all just as much as you’re putting forth effort. It’s perfectly natural–you’re trying to strike a balance between work and play. Now, before you wild out in a negative (or dangerous) fashion, there are other more constructive ways to blow off steam and still have a social life while being a competitive cheerleader.

Schedule friends like you schedule cheer activities. If you set aside time with your friends each week, you won’t feel like you’re neglecting them. It’s also a visual reminder that you are, in fact, being social in between your responsibilities. Being organized is important for everything in life, so map out your agenda before you fall too behind on your life and feel overwhelmed. If you simply have no free time to spend with your peers, don’t worry–they’ll be there for you when you’re less busy! It is still healthy to put on your agenda reminders to text people you miss seeing or devote an evening to call or facetime a friend before bed. Your friends will appreciate how you still make a small amount of time for them when you’re in the middle of juggling so much.

Shake off the FOMO. When you’re busy and everyone else is out having fun, you can get major FOMO (fear of missing out). You might have to decline a lot of social activities during competition season to focus on cheer, but coming to school or hearing your friends recount fun stories the next day can be more than a bummer. Even though it’s only a temporary setback in your social life, you may feel like the only one not having any fun as you practice day after day. Cheerleading is supposed to be fun though! So, instead of dwelling on missing out on what others are experiencing, make your own memories with your teammates! Maybe one evening after practice, you all can go for pizza together or perhaps you start a running inside joke between your teammates–when other people hear it, it's your turn to say "you just had to be there"! Who’s missing out now? And just remember: you will always have the chance to attend future social opportunities, but you only have one chance to perform your routine come competition day. Which is more important?

Set social circle goals during the season. Once you schedule day and times to see your friends in between competition cheer duties, you can set certain socializing goals to reach in order to feel like you’re doing the most you can to maintain your relationships. For example, you can try to accomplish at least one night away at the movies during competition season. Or maybe five full hours with your family on weekends. Or perhaps you want to attend one school function before March that isn’t cheer-oriented. Having set goals–especially if you write them all down and cross them off as you go–allows you to know exactly how you are balancing your cheer and personal life. Never think that you can’t do both!

In what other ways can cheerleaders juggle competitive cheer and being social? Do you have tips for striking a balance? Tell us your story in the comments below.